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RSG, Ethiopian Airlines Firm Up Permanent Flights

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The Rivers State Government and the management of Ethiopian Airlines have reached an agreement, in principle, for the operation of permanent international flights from the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, subject to the approval of the relevant federal authorities.
The two parties reached the agreement at the Headquarters of Ethiopian Airlines after a high-powered meeting between officials of the state government led by Governor Nyesom Wike; and the Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Dr Tewolde Gebremariam, the Chief Commercial Officer, Esayas Wolde Mariam, Vice President, Strategic Planning, Busera Awel, Managing Director, Sales International, Lemma Yadecha, Regional Director, Sales and Services, Western Africa, Mitiku Asrat and Manager, Group Alliance and Commercial Cooperation, Hewoel Lemma.
In an address, Chief Commercial Officer, Esayas Wolde Mariam, explained that Ethiopian Airlines has agreed to fly permanently from Port Harcourt International Airport, subject to the approval of the Federal Government.
Mariam said: “We are willing and capable to fly into Port Harcourt on a regular basis. For now, we have exhausted our Bilateral Air Agreement Approval, and we need another approval to operate the Port Harcourt route.
“We need your help to ensure that approval comes from the federal authorities. At first, there should be a temporary operating permit, pending the final approval”, he said.
The chief commercial officer added that Ethiopian Airlines needs the initial support of the Rivers State Government for handling and aviation infrastructure in Port Harcourt to develop the new market.
He noted that Ethiopian Airlines would also embark on advertisements to promote Port Harcourt as a tourist and investment destination.
Also speaking, the Vice President, Strategic Planning, Busera Awel made a presentation on the capacity and vision of the airline for the continent.
In his response, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike emphasised that the state government was willing to provide an enabling environment for Ethiopian Airlines to operate in the state, and assured that he would meet with the Minister of Aviation, Sen Hadi Sirika, to ensure that Port Harcourt International Airport was approved for Ethiopian Airlines as a destination.
Wike further said that his administration was working on making Port Harcourt a regional air transport hub for greater economic development of the state.
He said: “As we, therefore, consolidate on our achievements, we want to also focus on making Port Harcourt City a regional air transport hub through the private public partnership (PPP) approach while leveraging on the existing aviation infrastructure and related market and other advantages of the state.
“I wish to assure you that we are ready to do everything within our powers and spheres of authority and influence to facilitate the realization of your interest and desire to directly and sustainably fly from Port Harcourt to Addis Ababa and other parts of the world”, the governor stated.
Wike thanked officials of Ethiopian Airlines for their interest in expanding and retaining their services in Port Harcourt City, adding that the Rivers State Government would offer its social partnership, goodwill and support.
The governor noted that Port Harcourt was strategically located to serve as a transit point for the entire South-South and parts of the South-East, pointing out that, “We have agreed in principle that there is need for Ethiopian Airlines to fly from Port Harcourt to other destinations. Port Harcourt is a destination of choice, as it is easily accessible for the entire South-South and other states in the South-East”.
Wike was accompanied by former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Hon Austin Opara, Rivers State PDP Chairman, Bro Felix Obuah, Director General of Rivers State Bureau of Public Procurement, Mr Thompson Emmanuel, former House of Assembly member, Hon Felix Nwaeke, former Eleme Local Government Area Chairman, Chief Ejor N. Ejor, and President of Port Harcourt Investors and Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Ibifiri Bob-Manuel.

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Wike Unveils N2bn Fund For Farmers, Fishermen … Inaugurates C’ttee To Distribute Foodstuffs To Rivers People

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In a move to ensure that Rivers people don’t suffer during this trying period, the Rivers State Government has set aside N2billion for the launch of the State Farmer/Fisherman Empowerment Programme to purchase and distribute foodstuffs to Rivers people.
In a press conference, yesterday, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, said that the committee would purchase all agricultural products produced in the state for distribution to the less privileged.
Wike said: “We are going a step further to ensure that no one complains of hunger in our state during this trying period.
“The state government has therefore set aside the sum of N2billion to buy off all agricultural products produced in the state from farmers and fishermen.
“Our goal is to ensure that no agricultural product like yam, garri, plantain, palm oil and fish leaves our state during this period.
“While the farmers and fishermen will make their profits, the less privileged will have enough food supply for their families.”
Wike said that the committee set up by his administration is to ensure effective implementation of the new policy.
He said: “To ensure that the appropriate logistics for effective implementation of this policy is carried out to the letter, government will set up a 33-man committee.
Members of the committee include, Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, as chairman; Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Fred Kpakol, as secretary; while members are Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim; Mrs Victoria Allison; Mrs Tina Woluchor; Mrs Meg Onumbu; Mrs Gloria Akor; Mr Erastus Awortu; Mrs Christiana Lawrence Amadioha; Mrs Kate Mbanah and chairmen of the 23 local government areas.
“This committee will be inaugurated tomorrow, Tuesday, April 7, 2020 at 12 noon at Government House, Port Harcourt.”
He said that the state government will always take measures to protect Rivers people.
“As a responsive government, we did not wait to record any index case before we set out proactive measures that helped us to contain the virus in our state.
“The diligence exhibited by our health professionals and security agencies have made us to record one index case.
“Our strategies of shutting down markets and our borders have, no doubt, brought hardship to our citizens,” he said.
While lamenting the politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus by the Federal Government, Wike said that all states of the federation deserve grants from the Federal Government.
He said the release of grants to states should not be tied to the number of confirmed cases, since states like Rivers are working to prevent the spread of the disease.
Wike said that funds for the state government’s intervention in COVID-19 are captured in the 2020 budget under contingency funds.
Earlier, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had charged the Committee on Palliatives to cushion the hardship caused by strategies to contain the spread of Coronavirus in the state to ensure that the foodstuffs from the state government get to less privileged persons.
Inaugurating the committee, yesterday, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike said that the committee must not consider party affiliations.
Wike said: “The distribution of these foodstuffs has nothing to do with party membership. It should get to all less privileged people.
“That is why we have clerics, security personnel and other people in the committee. There should be no application of sentiment in the sharing.”
The governor said that the committee will reach out to the 23 local government areas of the state, adding that all local government areas must exercise patience till it gets to them.
“We will reach out to the 23 local government areas of the state. No local government area will be exempted.
“But Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas where we have the concentration of Rivers people will get the first attention,” he said.
The governor directed the committee to ensure orphanages; security agencies and other groups get the palliatives.
He described the situation as a war, where the entire world is being decimated by the virus, stressing that the fight to defeat Coronavirus must be sustained.
Wike reiterated his condemnation of the Federal Government for politicizing the fight against Coronavirus.
He said the exclusion of 35 states in the Federal Government’s intervention is unnecessary.

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No More Petrol Subsidy, Says NNPC Govs Back FG’s Action

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Leveraging on the low price of crude oil and petroleum products, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, yesterday, announced that the era of subsidizing the pump price of petrol was over.
He made the disclosure on the official Twitter handle of the NNPC after he appeared in a television interview.
Kyari said: “As at today, subsidy/under-recovery is zero. Going forward, there’ll be no resort to either subsidy or under-recovery of any nature. NNPC will just be another player in the market space. But we’ll be there for the country to sustain security of supply, at the cost of the market”.
As crude oil price slumped in the international market due to the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government responded by reducing the pump price of petrol from N145/litre to N125/litre in March.
It further reduced the price to N123.50/litre on April 1, after monitoring developments in the international oil market.
On the possibility of suffering another round of petrol scarcity, he said; “Today, we have a very robust products supply and distribution mechanism; from the loading depots up to fuel stations nationwide.
“We also have very good understanding with our strategic partners: the governors, marketers, depot owners, PTD, etc. There are no issues whatsoever.”
On the current developments in the international market, the NNPC GMD said: “The key issue in crude oil business is market fundamentals of demand/supply. I believe COVID-19 will subside and countries will come back to life. I don’t see oil price going below the $20 we saw last week. I’m certain, all things being equal, oil price will bounce back”.
He pointed out that the desire of the national oil company was to grow Nigeria’s production to 3 million barrels per day.
“As at yesterday, our production has, for the first time in many years, risen to 2.3mbpd. We believe this will grow and the contribution of local companies in this regard will be meaningful.”
On gas, the NNPC boss said there were ongoing plans to aggressively expand the domestic gas footprint with the delivery of the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS) II to double capacity from 1.1billion standard cubic feet of gas (BSCF) to 2.2BSCF and the OB3 gas pipeline to connect East and the West.
The NNPC, he revealed, would commence the construction of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline in the second quarter of 2020 to serve as an enabler to further boost the economic activities of the country.
Reacting to the news, governors of the 36 states in Nigeria have backed the Federal Government’s implementation of the petrol price modulation mechanism to eliminate petrol subsidy “permanently” in the country.
This decision was contained in a communique released in the early hours of yesterday by members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) after a meeting last Sunday to deliberate on the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The communiqe, signed by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who is also the NGF chairman, also supported the unification of exchange rates into a single, market-determined window and the use of the market-determined exchange rate to calculate all revenues due to the federation.
The implementation of the new petrol price modulation mechanism means Nigerians will pay for petrol in line with the product’s prevailing price in the global market.
The Federal Government had announced a further reduction in petrol’s pump price to N123.50 per litre on April 1, 2020.
That was the second time it would be reducing the pump price of petrol in two weeks.
It had announced a reduction in the pump price on 18th March, 2020 from N145 to N125 following the fall in the price of crude oil in the international market.
At that time, the price of Nigeria’s Brent Crude was below $25 but it is now up to 33.24 as at today.
A statement by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA)’s Executive Secretary, Abdulkadir Saidu in Abuja had said: “PPPRA, in line with the government approval for a monthly review of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) pump price, hereby announces Guiding PMS pump price of N123.50 per Litre.
“The Guiding price which becomes effective 1st April, 2020, shall apply at all retail outlets nationwide for the month of April, 2020.
“PPPRA and other relevant regulatory Agencies shall continue to monitor compliance to extant regulations for a sustainable downstream petroleum sector. Members of the Public and all Oil Marketing Companies are to be guided accordingly.”
Fayemi also briefed State governors on ongoing coordination with the World Bank to mobilise support for states to mitigate the economic and social cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the ongoing plans include accelerated disbursement of existing and new financing for states under the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results, and mitigation and recovery support for expenditures to protect livelihoods, support local economic activity and recovery over the next 18 months to two years.
The forum thanked the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), set up by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for their pledge to support states increase their capacity to mitigate the spread of the virus and care for confirmed cases through the construction of isolation centres and the distribution of personal protective equipment to states.
Members underscored the need for CACOVID to work directly with the States in the distribution of palliatives.
The forum lauded the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, and his team for the commitment in leading a national response to the COVID-19 pandemic after a briefing from him on the activities of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 which he chairs.
Members also stressed the need for stronger collaboration with states because they are best positioned to administer palliatives to mitigate the impact of the crisis, including the distribution of food and essential materials to households to help them cope with the expected loss of income and livelihoods.
The governors renewed the importance of cancelling all deductions and deferring or restructuring all commercial debt service payments on federal government and CBN-owned debts.

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Boko Haram: Surrender Or Die, Chad’s President Dares Shekau

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As the onslaught against Boko Haram terrorists continue, Chad’s President Idriss Deby has warned the sect’s factional leader, Abubakar Shekau, to surrender or risk being killed inside his Dikoa hideout.
Deby issued the warning in a state address to his countrymen shortly after leading his Army in an offensive against the terrorists that left about 100 killed.
According to the President, who spoke in French, Shekau has the chance to surrender now or risk being smoked out of his hideout in Dikoa and he would be killed the same say some of his commanders were killed.
Following a seven-hour ambush on Chadian troops by the terrorists that left 92 soldiers dead recently, Deby who said he would not accept defeat launched Operation Wrath of Bomo to avenge the death of his men.
Named after the town where the Chadian soldiers were killed, the operation, which commenced, last Thursday, saw the president leading his armed forces to battle at Kelkoua bank and Magumeri where they fired rockets and 12.5mm rounds of ammunition on the criminals.
The troops were said to have also destroyed several BHTs bunkers, recovered cache of arms and arrested a top BHT commander.
At Magumeri, a local government in the northern Borno State, the Chadian troops were alleged to have set free some Nigerian soldiers held captive by terrorists.

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